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Fifteen-minute consultation on the healthy child: Bowel habit in infants and children
  1. Joely Clarke1,
  2. Mark Peter Tighe2
  1. 1Department of Child Health, University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, Southampton, UK
  2. 2Department of Paediatrics, Poole Hospital NHS Trust, Poole, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Joely Clarke, Department of Paediatrics, Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Poole, BH15 2JB, UK; joelyclarke{at}


A common presentation to the general paediatric clinic is a child or young person’s difficult bowel habit, which is often a potent source of anxiety for parents and carers. A large proportion of these children will have a functional cause for their symptoms, with unnecessary investigation and non-evidence-based treatments adding to their difficulties. This article aims to explain what encompasses the normal bowel habit in children and young people, reassure where appropriate and identify those patterns that may be suggestive of a disorder or disease requiring treatment. We illustrate both extremes of the spectrum of normal bowel habit in children with two case studies.

  • castroenterology
  • general paediatrics

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  • Contributors MPT conceived the article. JC wrote the article, and both authors edited the article. MPT acts as guarantor.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.